People love stories. There is a comfort in experiencing lives that are not our own from the safety of our couches, be it a book, film, or television show. And despite our complaints about repetitive storylines, most people like their stories to be ultimately familiar. We like our heroes to win and villains to lose. Joseph Cambell’s monomyth has been utilized as long as stories have been told, so major story beats are recognizable at the core.
However, this doesn’t mean that television writers are given the go-ahead to take the lazy way out. Just because story structures stay the same doesn’t mean that the element of surprise should be abandoned. Some shows are constantly inventive, shocking their audiences time and time again while others may have fallen a bit short. Even on the best of shows, viewers could see these plot twists coming from a mile away.
Jon Snow Is Resurrected — Game of Thrones
Let’s get the big one out of the way. Despite Kit Harington’s lies, there was never any doubt to most fans that Jon Snow’s absence would not permanent. Yes, Game of Thrones has amassed quite the body count, but even a casual fan could tell that Jon’s story was far from over. After a fifth season full of character development and a still unsolved parentage, there was no way the Lord Commander was going to stay dead. Still, props to the creative team for still making the moment of his awakening at least somewhat suspenseful.
Glenn Surviving The Zombie Attack — The Walking Dead
Whether or not Glenn died in that dumpster was another obvious twist in the 2016 television season. Fans of the comics knew that Glenn was supposed to meet a very different fate (and he still might), and that killing him off in such an unceremonious way would be a real disservice to a character who had been there since episode one of The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, Glenn’s survival (after much delay) added another layer to the frustrating finale, which was just another brutal cliffhanger designed to taunt fans.
Dexter Faking His Death — Dexter
Dexter is one of those shows that burned bright at the start and went out with a whimper. Showtime’s serial killer with a conscience show definitely outstayed it’s welcome, and when they chose to have Michael C. Hall’s anti-hero abandon his family, fake his own death, and become a lumberjack that choice was met with eye-rolls instead of shock.
Rachel Gets Off The Plane — Friends
Could Friends have really ended any other way? After ten seasons of “Will They? Won’t They?” madness, there was no way that Ross and Rachel weren’t going to find true love with each other. After a much debated “break,” a drunken marriage, a divorce, and the birth of a child, it was pretty clear that they were meant to be, for better or worse. Whether you shipped it or not, Rachel getting off that plane to Paris was inevitable.
Everyone Is In Purgatory — Lost
Lost fans were (and still are) an obsessive bunch, picking apart every clue and Easter egg to figure out what was next for the residents of The Island. When it turned out that the survivors of Oceanic 815 had been stuck in a purgatory where they created their own realities, fans were not surprised that it was a more nuanced version of the “they had been dead the whole time!” theory. It may have been a cerebral ending for a complex series, but it wasn’t a particularly shocking one.
Ted And Robin End Up Together — How I Met Your Mother
Why else would Robin have figured into Ted’s story so much? How I Met Your Mother fans pretty much hated the series finale, but they definitely saw it coming. If Ted hadn’t ended up with Robin, telling his kids all about their relationship would have been a little warped. Still, Ted getting to have his kids with the “Mother” and a relationship with Robin felt contrived and cold. I blame that damn blue French horn.
Moriarty Comes Back — Sherlock
A hero is only as good as his villain, and Sherlock‘s Moriarity is one of the best in recent memory. After two thrilling seasons playing cat and mouse, the absence of Andrew Scott’s supervillain was keenly felt. While we saw him shoot himself in the head in the season 2 finale, there was virtually no way that such a strong foil would stay gone permanently. When he teased his return at the end of season 3, fans were thrilled, but not surprised — a theme that runs through a lot of these moments.